Using the DONATION database on a USB memory key

Hello again DONATION advisors and beta testers.

I just discovered that it is possible to use the database on a USB memory key, and am adding a Help topic explaining how to do that. I also plan an email to all users about it, probably next week sometime, but I wanted to share that new Help topic with you first, to get any comments that you have. Here it is:

It is possible to change the program’s setup to use the database on a USB memory key. This would be most advantageous if you have the program installed on multiple computers, and you want to bring the database with you as you move between those different computers. There is no additional charge for this setup.

This is similar to the options described in the Help topic Transfer your Data between Computers, but in this case, there is only one copy of the database. As such, there is no danger of different copies of the database being modified independently. (That would be bad, because changes made to multiple copies of a database cannot be merged).

You need to carefully perform several slightly technical steps on each computer (once) to make this work:

  1. Install the Standalone version of DONATION normally, if it is not already installed. (This can also be done with the free feature-limited Lite version.)
  2. Use the Tools -> Explore Data Directory menu option to open a My Computer / Windows Explorer-type window showing the program’s Data Directory.
  3. Without closing that window, switch back to DONATION, and exit DONATION.
  4. Back in the window showing the Data Directory, find the file DONATION.INI (it may show up as just DONATION, saying that it is an INI file). Right-click on that file, and pick Open or Edit from the popup menu. That will open the file in the simple text editing program Notepad.
  5. Find the line that starts “DatabaseDirectory=”, and change it to read “DatabaseDirectory=E:”, without the quotes. (This assumes that when you plug in a USB memory key on this computer, it comes up as the drive E:. If it comes up as some other drive, change that line accordingly.)
  6. Save that change with the File -> Save menu option in Notepad, then exit Notepad.
  7. Only on the computer that has the most current version of the database, plug in your USB memory key. From the window showing the Data Directory, drill down into its subdirectory named Data. You should see a file there named DONATION4.DB, and at least one other file named DONATION4.metadata. Copy all files in that directory to the USB memory key, in its main directory, e.g. E:.
  8. Exit the Window showing the Data Directory.

Now when you run DONATION on any computer, being sure to have the USB memory key containing the database plugged in, it will be accessing the database from the USB memory key.

Potential Problems with this Setup

Sometimes on a computer, if you do not eject a USB memory key, and then plug in a different USB memory key (or the same one again), it comes up with the next available drive letter. So for instance if your USB memory key on a given computer usually comes up as E:, then you remove it, and re-insert it, it may come up as F:.

If that happens and you have DONATION set up to access the database on E:, and you then run DONATION, it will not find the database. You will see an error message such as:

When you click OK, the program will exit.

To fix this, find the control in your Windows System Tray, which is at the bottom right of your Taskbar, or in the popup list of other tools, accessed from the System Tray, for “Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media”, or words to that effect. Click on it, which will bring up a list of drives that can be ejected. Click on the one (or ones) that need to be ejected (being sure not to try to eject your CD or DVD drive!). After that, it should say that the drive can be safely removed, so remove it. Once you have ejected whatever USB drives it says are there, you should be able to put the USB memory key back in, and have it show up as the normal expected drive letter, e.g. E:, and you should then be able to run DONATION successfully.

Another issue with this setup is that if you contact us for support, and there is any chance a problem you are discussing with us might be related to the location of the database, you must mention that you are using this setup with the database living on a USB memory key.

Backups with this Setup

Normally a USB memory key is one of the most recommended places to backup your database to. However, when the database already lives on a USB memory key, you need to back it up somewhere else, either to the hard drive(s) of your computer(s), or to a different USB memory key, and/or use the options for Email Backups or Internet Backups.

If you just backup to the same USB memory key, then if that key dies (which can happen), you have nothing. (That’s the same issue as if your database lives on your hard drive, in the normal setup, and you backup only to that hard drive. If that hard drive dies, you have nothing.)


7 thoughts on “Using the DONATION database on a USB memory key

    • That is the location of the old-style databases, DONATION3.DB, from version 2.70 or earlier of DONATION. It is only used on a first upgrade from those early versions. So no, you wouldn’t have to change that.

  1. I’ve used memory sticks since they first came out and never had a problem. Almost made me think that they never fail…until July 2012 when the one with my church database failed — well, only partially failed. All the database files were gone but all documents were still there. So I just want to emphasize that your comments about backing up a memory stick are very, very important.

  2. Hi Dan — would this work as an application that would allow one of my board members to have a copy of the database for his reference? He would not be changing anything on his copy.

    • No Doug, for that you use the standard existing method, described in the Help topic “Transfer your Data between Computers”. With that method, you just install the program on his computer, and transfer the database to him periodically with backup and restore.

      This method with the database living on the USB memory key would not be appropriate for the situation you are describing because you would have to go over to his house with that USB memory key every time he wanted to use the program!

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